France warns masks and social distancing will remain after vaccine

Paris, France
People sit in the gardens below the Sacre Coeur basilica in the Montmartre district of Paris

France’s health minister says his country is readying to start administering Covid-19 vaccines in late December.

But Olivier Veran has warned that people will still have to wear masks and keep their distance even after vaccines are widely available.

Mr Veran said he cannot say yet whether mass vaccination “will allow us to get rid of this virus and totally return to our past lives”, because it is not clear exactly how long protection from the eventual vaccines will last.

Noting broad scepticism in France about vaccine safety, he promised transparency about vaccination policy and to release plans soon on who will get the vaccine first and how.

President Emmanuel Macron has said France will not make Covid vaccines mandatory.

The government laid out details of a gradual easing of its month-long virus lockdown and announced hundreds of millions of euros in new aid for struggling workers and students and businesses forced to close.

French authorities are also increasing efforts to counteract the mental health consequences of the second lockdown and protracted pandemic.

The prime minister said a government hotline for psychological help is now receiving 20,000 calls a day.

France leads Europe in numbers of confirmed virus infections, and has reported 50,618 virus-related deaths.

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